Opinion: The rot in the Nigerian Immigration Service

by Chinasa Ikelu

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I waited for some minutes at the collection room and my passport was given to me without delay, without having to pay three thousand Naira – which to me is illegal. Nigerians, stop fueling corruption. If Nigerians insists on following due process in government parastatal, the country can begin to head in the right direction.

On highlighting from the bike, there were shouts from people I hadn’t met before. One asked, are you here for International passport, I didn’t respond and the other said he could give me a contact at the commission for easy processing. I kept quiet and walked along until they gave up on me and returned to their initial station.

I got to the gate and the man on uniform asked: what are you here for? I told him I came to renew my passport and he said same thing the touts at the entrance told me. Can I give you a contact so as to fast track the process? To avoid being rude, I obliged and he introduced me to a colleague of his who took me to an inner room. A lady without uniform welcomed me and I asked her who she was, she said she works at the commission so I demanded for her Identity card, she lied that she didn’t come with her ID. I immediately walked away from her sight.

On my way out, I met an officer with uniform; asked her my questions and she retorted: ‘Do you want to renew your passport’? I said yes. One would wonder, why asking all these questions if same can be readily seen on the NIS website. Renewal process is visibly absent on that site. The only explained process is that of fresh passport issuance. I won’t be surprised if the website is been updated following this ordeal. The lady I met then took me to an office and gave me a form to fill. I still was not convinced about the whole process because I had earlier seen on the website a number of revoked passports for reasons best known to the commission, so I didn’t want to fall prey to officers who won’t go straight to the point.

I asked her: what is the procedure for passport renewal? She refused to let the cat out of the bag and nobody was willing to tell me either. I then began to wonder, is there really something I am not doing right or are these guys just wicked. She then asked for my passport and smiled. She said, how much can you pay. I told her I already paid online; she smiled again and said, do you want your passport ready on time or in months to come. I just knew where she was driving so I left the commission without achieving anything at the Festac office.

The next day I went online and searched again for the renewal process but only fresh applicants had their process explained explicitly online. So I started the normal process of paying online. To avoid the embarrassment at the Festac office, I chose the Ikoyi office since I had a bitter experience there. The date for the interview – 31st December 2013 – came and I was happy because I was going to a sane environment.

Open your bag, the gateman said and I obliged him the look. What have you come to do? I came for passport renewal. Is anybody helping you? I said No, I was schedule for an appointment today. I walked into an unknown office because everybody – both uniformed and mufti officers – was busy at the walk way. At the unknown office, I presented my case to an officer who asked me for my documents and I gave her same. She said go outside, buy a file and come back. I did and returned with the file.

She then said go to registry room and register your file. On getting to the point of registration, I was welcomed with surprise from Andy who asked what I wanted to do and I told him I came for passport renewal. He said: you are not supposed to do all these. Re-issue is different from fresh passport request. The lady standing beside him said, you are lucky! My guess is that those revoked passports online might have followed the wrong procedure to obtaining their passports. But my question remains; who would have told them if the necessary information aren’t available online?

I was shocked because I had followed the wrong procedure but became stronger. My application was cut short and I had to start afresh. I was introduced to a lady to assist me with the procedure. She got all the items and I asked to how much it costs, she retorted, don’t worry.

After visiting several offices, I was asked to seat where my biometrics would be captured. After the capture, I was relieved thinking the process had ended. I was then asked to come on the 3rd of January, 2014 for the print-out, which obviously should come out immediately after the capture. But network issues were rather given as excuse for this delay. On the said date, I returned to the commission and a collection date of 20th January, 2014 was stated on the form.

Before leaving the commission, the lady who had rendered help asked me to see her after the biometrics capture. I went to her office and she said my passport could be ready same day – 3rd of January, 2014 – if I paid the sum of three thousand naira only for what she termed “PRODUCTION FEE”. I told her I wasn’t aware of any payment aside that done online but she said: Everyone pays this amount, will mine be different and I said to myself, I am not everyone.

I left the commission in rage only to return on the date of collection but was greeted with shock of my file not been found. I went to the SERVICOM desk but the officer – Ayoade – said she personally took my file to the PCOs office for production. Ayoade further said that my case was strange. She begged me to return the next day so she could sort my file and since the PCO wasn’t in the office that fateful day. I left and returned the next day as promised but I wasn’t convinced of the help she claimed to be rendering as she said my file can’t be found. I was worried and almost flared up but kept my calm.

She begged again that I should wait instead at the waiting room for about thirty minutes. After the said minutes, I returned to her and she said my file was nowhere to be found. I quickly ran to the PCOs office as this was getting worrisome. I met the PCOs absence but her secretary was present. I presented my case and said that my case was strange insisting that all files that come to the PCO for approval are returned to the Production room for production of passport. The secretary further directed me to the Special Assistant to the PCO, on getting there, the S.A asked, what do you want again this boy? I told him my ordeal at the SERVICOM and he referred me back there insisting that they should be the one to help me. I was confused because I was just coming from SERVICOM desk.

Helplessly waiting outside on what to do next, the S.A. approached me and said, young man, your passport will be ready in five minutes. Go to the collection room and wait there. I was excited and shocked at the same time because this was same man told me he couldn’t help me.

I waited for some minutes at the collection room and my passport was given to me without delay, without having to pay three thousand Naira – which to me is illegal. Nigerians, stop fueling corruption. If Nigerians insists on following due process in government parastatal, the country can begin to head in the right direction.

For clarity sake, if you need a fresh passport, visit www.immigration.gov.ng, navigate the page for easy access of information but if you need to renew your old passport, write a letter to the PCO with the title Renewal of Passport. A short body on your details with old passport number would do. Take this letter to the commission along with all traditional payments – which must have been online before your visit – and follow the procedure outlined above. Every other thing is secondary as you might complete the biometrics capture the same day.

Thank you!

 

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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